I realized yesterday that I’d put off writing about one of my Birthday Week Indulgences because of the hook. (For non-writers, “the hook” is the attention-grabbing first sentence of an article or post. A good hook creates enough intrigue or curiosity to engage the reader and keep him or her reading.)
Every time I sat down to write about this place, which is one of my favorite lunch spots, I swear I could hear a bunch of 12-year-old boys guffawing and snickering in the background. Why? The restaurant’s name, of course. Yesterday SF Eater posted a brief article addressing exactly the thing I was dealing with. So thanks to SF Eater, I’m pushing forward.
For my Friday Birthday Week Indulgence I ate Asian Box. And I’d do it again.
Ok, there, I said it. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about what really matters: the experience.
“The Box” or “Box” as the three-year-old business refers to itself, is headquartered in Palo Alto, where it opened its first location (they’re now up to five total, including two in Southern California). The restaurant style is casual and family-friendly; customers are greeted with a rousing “Welcome to Box!” from the counter staff when entering the small restaurant.
Asian Box’s niche is Vietnamese-style street food, paired with California influence. Ingredients are free of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, and sourced locally whenever possible. Not only is Asian Box following a model in which they’re part of the local food system, but they’re also looking out for the environment. The containers in which food is served are either compostable (box bottoms) or recyclable (plastic tops and containers).
So, how can you get yourself some Asian Box? In the 650 you can find an Asian Box restaurant in Palo Alto or Mountain View. Place your order at the counter “for here” or “to go” using the above-counter menu, which makes ordering a box your way as easy as 1-2-3-4. If you’re indecisive or overwhelmed by too many possibilities, try one of the four House Favorites. I’ve noticed that “The Workout” seems to be a popular choice with regulars at the Palo Alto location.
If you’re so hungry that you need to get something in your mouth ASAP, or are just looking for a grab-and-go option, the cold case at the counter has pre-packaged Tofu Spring Rolls, Shrimp Spring Rolls, and Green Papaya Salad, as well as bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks. FYI, the rolls are about 3″ long — just enough for an appetizer, snack, or very small lunch.
When your box order is ready, counter staff will call out your order number; usually the wait is about 10 minutes. (Note that wait times can be longer during core mealtimes.) Takeaway orders are packaged with utensils and napkins so that you can be on your way. “For here” orders at the Palo Alto location are delivered to your table by friendly Box staff — which is a nice touch if you want to grab an outside table and watch the usual T&C parking-lot shenanigans while waiting for your food.
What I love about Asian Box (hehe) is that they offer something for every diet. Whether you’re paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, carnivore, whatever — Box has got you covered. And you can change it up every time! My current favorite combo is rice noodles with tofu, caramel egg, all toppers — except bean sprouts (yuck) and jalapenos (overkill with the sriracha, in my opinion) — peanut sauce, and sriracha sauce on the side.
The vegetables are fresh and crunchy, the texture of the tofu is firm, but not hard, and the toppers and sauces add so much flavor to the mix. Ok, so the peanut sauce is green, but it’s still got that flavorful, sweet-spicy-salty thing going on. (And, by the way, all of Asian Box’s sauces are made fresh, on-site. No bottled or pre-made sauces from these guys!)
As indulgences go, this is one I won’t limit only to birthdays. In fact, writing this post has given me a craving for Asian Box, so I might have to venture out to the Town & Country this weekend for some satisfaction.
Have you tried Asian Box? Wanna share your experience? Tell all in the comments below or on 650Food’s Facebook page, where you can also check out photos of the other Birthday Week Indulgences.
What: Asian Box
Where: Town & Country Shopping Center, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301
42 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: 11am–9pm daily
Parking: Free lot